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Sunburned Hand of the Man - Bootleg LP

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Artist: Sunburned Hand of the Man

Album: Bootleg LP

Label: Unknown

Review date: Nov. 11, 2003

An introductory warning: On Sunburned Hand of the Man’s website, they list recent releases. Next to this bootleg LP is the statement “If anybody knows who the scumbags are who did this one, tell 'em Ed ‘Lead Pipe’ Hardy's got his eyes on their kneecaps.” While reviewing the record a full three states away from Sunburned’s Massachusettes stomping ground, I sprained my knee. Most evidence releases the group from liability, but I’m still suspicious. Beware the incantations of the Man.

On this three-song record, Sunburned Hand of the Man venture into some fresh territory. The brew continues to be rich with drones, reverberating guitars, and vocal wailing. Rhythmically, however, the game is different. Frequently, SHOTM use a steady drummed pulse as a grounding from which they ease into less structured combinations of noise, psych, percussion, and moaning. This performance is a bit lighter on its feet.

The single track on Side B opens with a free-drumming workout. Tumbling toms and cymbals surf under a trumpet and someone’s moaning monotone voice. This mixture expands with shakers, tambourine, keyboards, and bells to keep a nice percussive feel with surprisingly little on the lower end of the spectrum. As this phase thins out, the track briefly goes south, but recovers with a new drone, which grows slowly in effect as a saxophone and voice moan together, imitating one another. Some thicker drones add to the steamy, meditative feel, and a steady rhythm joins as well. With some nice moments and a lapse in the middle, Side B just feels too long.

Of all things, Side A starts up with a relatively taut and funky rhythm. Half-way through this guitar-led effort, a bass guitar takes over the task, along with a sax, to add some weight. Bells, tambourine, cymbals, and diffused guitar mix and mingle. The second track begins with a nicely shuffling beat of shakers, bells, and a little synthesized something. A voice chants, “War!” or is it, “Whoa?” The most interesting development emerges when the saxophone and drummer hit a free jazz spell and go off for a while. These two find some common ground separate from the gang and use it. Soon enough the drums drop away in favor of noise slashes and then more squeaky sax work.

Undoubtedly, Sunburned Hand of the Man have carved a particular sound out of their myriad influences. Often the mixture registers as one room of sound – a whole equaling more than the sum of parts. This record offers interesting moments when that funk or that free jazz protrudes from the mass to stake an individual claim. For a group that often uses basic rhythms as a foundation for spontaneous sounds, this bootleg a different approach. While some segments don’t work so well, these other rhythms suggest new directions in which the Man could get even better.

By Jeff Seelbach

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